An evening of firsts

Two new pieces, ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Diplomats,’take center stage in Premieres at Suzanne Dellal.

Barak marshall wonderland 311 (photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
Barak marshall wonderland 311
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
‘It’s dark in here. Someone turn on the lights,” shouts an agitated and clearly anxious voice on the blackened stage of Barak Marshall’s Wonderland. “Please, I can’t see,” he says. “Can someone please turn on the lights!”
Boom! Lights, music, dancers.
In his third piece for the Suzanne Dellal Center in less than four years, Marshall digs deep into his goodie bag for theatrical tricks with which to dazzle the audience. This week, Wonderland will premiere alongside Diplomats by Renana Raz at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
The evening, which is simply called Premieres, is a joint venture of the two young choreographers. Over the past several months, the two have shared a cast of talented local dancers to create original works that will go into the house repertoire of the center.
In Israel and abroad, the name Suzanne Dellal is synonymous with contemporary dance. For more than 20 years, the picturesque center in south Tel Aviv has been the most active dance hub in the Middle East.
For many years, the administration of Suzanne Dellal was committed to importing and exporting the best dance artists, putting in place a kind of cultural exchange between Israel and dozens of other countries. Then, three years ago, CEO Yair Vardi decided to shake things up. In a bold moment for the center, Vardi initiated an indigenous production to the center. Hand in hand with American/Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall, the Suzanne Dellal Center presented Monger.
The piece, which featured 10 elite Israeli dancers shimmying and gesturing to a montage of music new and old, was an immediate success. Monger was invited to tour extensively in Europe, America and Asia. The following year, Marshall was invited back to make his magic once again. Joining forces with his mother, founder of Inbal Theater Margalit Oved, Marshall wielded together Rooster, a piece for 12 dancers and a singer. Success again. In some ways, these two productions forever changed the face of Suzanne Dellal, transitioning it away from its role as dance promoter and into its current capacity as a production house.
For this new project, Vardi tested a new format. As more and more companies present split bills boasting various choreographers, so will Suzanne Dellal. Each choreographer was told to create half an evening, or roughly 30 minutes. The resulting works, as audiences are sure to note, are very different from one another.
In Wonderland, spelled in Yiddish letters, Marshall’s movement language is clearly present. Sharp, frantic and unbelievably fast gestures are set to Balkan and Arabic music. There is a strong text element in this work, which provides comic relief for the audience, as well as a needed moment for both viewer and performer to catch their breath. The piece is about 10 lost souls trapped in a kind of purgatory. It would appear that in Marshall’s eyes, hell is other people dancing.
Diplomats by Raz began as an attempt to listen to national anthems outside of their political or patriotic context. “They are actually very beautiful pieces of music,” says Raz. Over months of research, Raz and her dancers played around with juxtaposition of movement with sound. Though Raz is adamant that her piece is not political, there is a certain satirical wink embedded deep in the work. Dressed in flag-evoking costumes, the dancers act out a certain kind of ritual on stage, one in which each performer attempts to win the attention of the audience and his or her peers.
“What they are doing on stage, their being together, is a kind of diplomacy,” says Raz of her choice of title for this work.
Premieres will be performed on December 22 at 9 p.m.. For tickets, visit